Braamcamp Freire Secondary School
by CVDB Arquitectos


Bold primary colours punctuate this stark concrete extension to a secondary school outside Lisbon by Portugese architect CVDB Arquitectos (+ slideshow)

Braamcamp Freire Secondary School by CVDB Arquitectos

Braamcamp Freire Secondary School, located in the Pontinha area just outside Portugal's capital city, was originally built in 1986 as five prefabricated units.

Braamcamp Freire Secondary School by CVDB Arquitectos

CVDB Arquitectos restructured the dispersed units into a single building by connecting them with new corridors, creating what they call a "learning street".

Braamcamp Freire Secondary School by CVDB Arquitectos

The school is now arranged around a central courtyard, created by joining up the existing buildings.

Braamcamp Freire Secondary School by CVDB Arquitectos

A series of punctured concrete walls support a new set of classrooms on one side of the courtyard and provide a sheltered area where pupils can gather.

Braamcamp Freire Secondary School by CVDB Arquitectos

The facades combine exposed in situ concrete and prefabricated concrete elements in order to minimise building and maintenance costs.

Braamcamp Freire Secondary School by CVDB Arquitectos

The windows have been recessed into the facade to create a series of vertical concrete louvres, each painted red, yellow or blue to add a flash of colour to the exterior.

Braamcamp Freire Secondary School by CVDB Arquitectos

Splashes of primary colours also punctuate the main staircase and selected interior walls, including the blue wall of sound absorbing concrete blocks.

Braamcamp Freire Secondary School by CVDB Arquitectos

The school hall is lined in vertical timber studs and acoustic panels.

Braamcamp Freire Secondary School by CVDB Arquitectos

We've featured a number of schools on Dezeen, including a gabled extension to an English boarding school and a Vietnamese school with open-air balconies – see all schools on Dezeen.

Braamcamp Freire Secondary School by CVDB Arquitectos

Other buildings in Portugal we've published lately include a home on a golf course complex outside Lisbon and a bright white building in the monastery town of Alcobaça – see all Portugese architecture.

Braamcamp Freire Secondary School by CVDB Arquitectos

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See all buildings in Lisbon »

Photographs are by Invisible Gentleman.

Here's some more information from the architects:

CVDB Arquitectos
Secondary School ES/EB3 Braamcamp Freire
Lisboa, Portugal

The Braamcamp Freire Secondary School is located at the edge of the historical centre of Pontinha, Lisbon. The site has approximately 17,380 sq m and borders an accentuated topography. The school is part of Pontinha’s urban fabric with the exception of its north boundary which faces an unconstructed valley.

Braamcamp Freire Secondary School by CVDB Arquitectos

The School was originally built in 1986, with five standardised prefabricated pavilions – a central one with a single storey and four two storey pavilions. These pavilions were organised along an east-west axis, connected by covered walkways. The existing school included a gym as well as an outside playground at a lower level and very disconnected from the buildings.

Braamcamp Freire Secondary School by CVDB Arquitectos

The rehabilitation project of the building was part of the Portuguese "Modernisation of Secondary Schools Programme", which has been implemented by the Parque Escolar E.P.E. since 2007. The Programme's objective is to reorganise schools spaces, to articulate their different functional areas and to open these schools to their local communities.

Braamcamp Freire Secondary School by CVDB Arquitectos

The project proposes to restructure the dispersed pavilion typology into one single building, to connect all the pavilions through interior circulation spaces. The new buildings are built to work as a link in between the existing pavilions.

Braamcamp Freire Secondary School by CVDB Arquitectos

The programme is structured as a learning street and a continuous path throughout the various building levels and floors. These pathways consist in a succession of several interior spaces, offering different informal learning opportunities. The learning street therefore articulates the various programmes of the school. The pathways are punctuated with social areas which actively contribute to interactions between students, the various educational programmes and the school community.

Braamcamp Freire Secondary School by CVDB Arquitectos

The school is structured around a central open space, a “learning square” that expands the “learning street” as an outside social central space of the school. The square’s relationship with the playground areas provides a strong relationship with the existing natural landscape and topography. The Square is open as an amphitheater connecting it to the playgrounds in the northern part of the school grounds.

Braamcamp Freire Secondary School by CVDB Arquitectos

This amphitheater is below the new classrooms building supported by a series of punctured concrete walls allowing students either to walk through them or to use them as places to sit, talking and playing. The facades of the school are essentially constituted in exposed in situ concrete and prefabricated concrete elements, to minimize maintenance costs. The concrete panels were carefully designed to respond adequately to each façade’s solar orientation.

Braamcamp Freire Secondary School by CVDB Arquitectos

In the interior spaces, adequate resistant materials were chosen for an intensive use and very low maintenance costs. The multipurpose hall has timber studs and acoustic panels. The circulation spaces walls are mainly done with concrete acoustic blocks. The social spaces present themselves as niches in bright colours.

Braamcamp Freire Secondary School by CVDB Arquitectos

Project: ES / EB3 Braamcamp Freire
Location: Pontinha, Lisboa, Portugal
Client: Parque Escolar, EPE
Total built area: 15,800 m2
Project and construction period: 2010 – 2012

Braamcamp Freire Secondary School by CVDB Arquitectos

Above: ground floor plan – click for larger image

Design Team: CVDB Arquitectos
Cristina Veríssimo, Diogo Burnay, Tiago Santos, João Falcão, Rodolfo Reis, Joana Barrelas, Adam Pelissero, André Barbosa, , Ângelo Branquinho, Ari Nieto, Guilherme Bivar, Hugo Nascimento, Inês Carrapiço, Irune Ardanza, José Maria Lavena, Leonor Vaz Pinto, Luigi Martinelli, Miguel Travesso, Silvia Amaral, Silvia Maggi
Colour Consultant: João Nuno Pernão

Braamcamp Freire Secondary School by CVDB Arquitectos

Above: upper floor plan – click for larger image

Landscape design: F&C Arquitectura Paisagista
Structure, foundations and services: AFA Consult

Braamcamp Freire Secondary School by CVDB Arquitectos

Above: section – click for larger image 

  • JMA

    Hardcore Corbusier influence there.

  • Rzepa


  • PeeWeen

    The Corbusier reinterpretation really makes me like it!

  • Axel

    Hey Le Corbusier.

  • marco

    He’s back! And it feels surprisingly fresh.

  • Friendly Fire

    Congratulations Diogo and Cristina! Two thumbs up!

  • Newton

    Congrats! Great architecture from Portugal, as usual!

  • Fantastic scheme, simple, pure and looks good value too. I’d love to study here. Can’t say any of the BSF schemes that I’m aware of come close to this.

  • Guy

    Interesting. A cold, contemporary youth prison with primary colours. The only thing that seems to foster a creative thinking for the kids is the primary colours. The architects built whatever they wanted and then added red, blue, and yellow.

    Doesn’t seem like a good place for education, or on second thought maybe it’s a perfect example of modern education. Looks cool but ice cold, and not happy, for kids. Thumbs down.

    • Dave Gronlie

      Pretty much have to agree. It may be “nice architecture” but I couldn’t see myself as a child trying to learn in this space.

    • blah

      I dunno, my most enduring memories of school was a particularly nice herringbone parquet they had in one class block and winning dux and being expelled in the same week. If the place had looked like this however I might have actually cared if I had to leave and perhaps chosen architecture over smoking pot instead.

    • Joel

      FYI: “You design a school just like you design a prison,” has been a maxim in architecture schools for decades. Thus, frequently, they are designed by the same architecture firms.

  • Aaron

    A clear and devoted reverence to the monastery of Saint Marie de la Tourette by Le Corbusier. It is interesting to me that Europe seems to be very loyal to these referencial works, but on the other hand America has taken the modern form in order to achieve other goals, mostly with an aim of humanism and fraternity.

    No doubt Le Corbusier’s work has diverse influences, although the “materiality” itself was the same. That is why sharing and confrontation is important.

  • Romain

    I find it reminiscent of the post-war reconstruction effort in Europe: we were then in urgent need of new buildings that could be built quickly and cheaply. I’m not well-informed enough to know whether the Pontinha district is in such dire economic straits as to warrant using a 60-year-old construction ethos.

    The context has changed, hasn’t it? While it’s understandable that the International Style would thrive when the world was reeling from instability and unfathomable hardship, I find this kind of architecture to be ill-suited for countries striving for identity and relevancy in an increasingly European setting.

    Before Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp (or the Philips Pavilion) one could argue that Corbusier had a mechanical/industrial approach to space – he invented the “machine à habiter” didn’t he? Should we really treat young minds as products to be manufactured and shipped out? Are schools machines for teaching? Shouldn’t they rather be seats of culture and self-fulfilment?

    I’m not against modernism – I even believe that the Swiss architect Alfred Roth was a visionary in terms of school-building – I just wonder whether modernism truly applies to this particular context.

    • blah

      Post-war reconstruction? I hardly think the soundtrack to this school is Einstruzende Neubaten. And we all know modernism died at 3pm on 16 March 1972 with Pruitt–Igoe, and then there’ve been 40 odd years since.

      Why can’t a modernist approach be applied to a public building (which is what a school essentially is) with the lessons we have learnt in-between? How is this building not a seat of culture? Lord knows it’s quoting enough of it. If modernism is to be applied anywhere I think this is apt and humanised.

      • Romain

        I may have been harsh and I certainly didn’t mean to associate the school with Berliner Industrial Rock (thank you for pushing me to look it up by the way). Although I will admit that the school would be a nice setting for a punk music video.

        As for culture, I’m afraid I’ll have to take a post-modernist stance on the question: in this context I find eclecticism to be preferable to international uniformity.

        Should this school reflect Pontinha’s identity as one of the strongholds of the Carnation Revolution (which essentially freed Portugal from the grip of the Estado Novo )? Should it reference the district’s coastal geography? Should it quote Portugal’s Moorish heritage? Wouldn’t children benefit from such references?

        I don’t claim to have any answers. I’m just submitting to you the fact that modernism tends to forgo these questions in order to pursue what some architects hold as universal truths. It can be kind of alienating.

        Of course, modernism applies to public infrastructure: Brasilia could only be built in the international style so as to better reflect the city’s role as the political heart of a vast and multicultural country.

        As for humanising the architectural program, I find the original school to be more in keeping with modernist theories (see Alfred Roth and his school pavilions) while the extension presented above is just an aesthetic quote.

  • Johan van Helden

    Is this an ideal environment where children can discover and develop their social behavior and skills? Is it built to really support those children? Looks more like a parking garage to me, with some bright colours to cheer it up and reduse vandalism.

  • majkelecek

    I think it’s great. As far as creativity is concerned – what do you think is more stimulating: subtle concrete texture or standardised smooth white surfaces?

    I think the colours stand out much more than if it was all painted and lively – which can be quite overwhelming sometimes.

    It’s hard to say what effect this would actually have on young minds but I wouldn’t judge it too harshly and too fast. And I think it’s far less anonymous than a contemporary glazed building would be.

    As far as context is concerned, how many references does each building actually have to make to things like the coastal location and heritage? How explicit would you like those things to be?

  • Marin

    Goes to show how important getting the lighting design right is. This project would be so much better if warm white (3000k) lamps were used. The convention of using cool white (4000k) lamps in commercial, educational spaces does not work well with all that grey concrete.

  • ignacio arciniegas


  • Gary Walmsley

    Looking at many of these images one has to wonder, are students expected to learn and develop or confess.

  • cade

    What is missing is collaborative space. All I see is a simplistic yet well designed background. Where is the creative element to stimulate thought, creativity etc…